TONIGHT is the last performance of Street Scenes:Three Site-Specific Plays, so join us at 7:30pm at the Robbie Burns statue (East side of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery) for a great evening of theatre! The plays featured are Linda McNutt’s John & Libby: River Play, Michael Woodside’s Tam O’Shanter and Jake Martin’s The Pugilist. And don’t forget, after the show, to tag along for One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Beer at the King St Ale House – check out the tab above for details. Our Site-Specific shows have been getting some awesome crowds, and we’re hoping for the best one yet tonight.
In honour of closing night, we have an interview with one of our playwrights: Michael Woodside, who wrote Tam O’Shanter. Check it out below, and see you at the Robbie Burns statue!
Also tonight, 8pm at Memorial Hall, UNB, you can catch our One-Act shows, running until tomorrow, featuring Clarissa Hurley’s The Lye Sandwich and Jeff Lloyd’s Jobbers. Click on the tabs above for all ticket, show and festival details.
Q&A with Michael Woodside, Tam O’Shanter
Tell us a bit about your play and where you got the inspiration for it?
The play initially came from a walk along the green, and a discussion about the restoration of the Robbie Burns statue. At the time, it was a fairly divisive issue about what would be done to raise the $80,000 to restore and flood proof the statue. When the statue was taken down for repairs, I had this sort of absurd nostalgia reaction to his absence. I’m not particularly a Burns enthusiast or have any sort of ancestral roots that tied me to Robbie, but the statue is still an integral part of my particular Fredericton landscape. I started to imagine a situation where a passionate Frederictonian was trying to explain the statue’s importance to a tourist that really wasn’t seeing anything special. This dialogue ended up evolving into the creation of Grant and Tabitha, two IT drones who meet at a tech conference in the city. The play opens with Grant’s lukewarm efforts to impress Tabitha by staging an impromptu poetry reading at the Burns statue, complete with a Gatorade bottle full of whisky. The final puzzle piece was incorporating Burns’ verse into the play, combining Fredericton lore with elements of his poetry. Burns’ poem ‘Tam O’Shanter’ was a natural fit to frame the play, and serves as the inspiration for a sort of decidedly New Brunswick reimagining.
You have had plays produced before at the NotaBle Acts Festival, but this is the first time in the site-specific category. What drew you to want to write a site-specific work, and do you find the writing process in any way different/unique/more challenging than that for a conventional script?
The idea of NotaBle Acts producing site-specific theatre has interested me since its inception into the festival. The accessibility and size of downtown Fredericton makes for an ideal spot to showcase theatre at unorthodox locations. In the past, we’ve seen the festival feature a diverse variety of site-specific shows: a city bus, the Picaroons Brewtique, even a stroll to the banks of the Saint John river. Having these overlooked or mundane settings featured as the backdrop gives the audience a chance to see old locations in a new light. These shows do provide certain challenges from a writing and production standpoint that need to be solved creatively. Actors certainly do not have the luxury of a controlled space, and instead find themselves trying to compete with backed up traffic trying to get on the Westmorland. We are at the mercy of the Kanye from a car stereo, or the belligerent uncle trying to switch his cellphone carrier. There is a general unpredictability of performing in public, which can be a bit of a high wire act at times. The ambiance of the public space becomes part of the show itself, and manages to challenge the traditional notion of what theatre is.
What do you hope the audience experiences or takes away from your play?
I hope that these shows let the audience see that theatre can be much more than seeing Our Town in your middle school gym. I would love to see more participation in the festival, and to see more amateurs give it a shot. You can still have theatre with limited resources, there are no pre-requisites for this stuff. The writing process can often seem like you are in a heated argument with yourself for days on end, wondering if something is funny or clever enough to put out there. This play errs more on the side of ‘romp’ than existential-guilt-period-piece. I had fun with the writing, and didn’t take myself or the characters too seriously. I hope the audience feels the same.
You’re multi-tasking in the festival this year, acting in addition to writing, and this kind of multi-tasking is pretty common around the festival. What’s that like? How is the festival unique in this regard and how has it helped you learn or grow as theatre makers?
Absolutely, this is what sort of makes NotaBle Acts feel like less like just another festival, and more family reunion. I’m lucky enough to have worked with Linda McNutt, as she directed a one-act I did in 2012. I’ve worked with Jake Martin on stage previously, and now get to see his directorial wizardry applied to my writing. It’s very exciting to see these insanely talented people in a different role, which has sort of become the norm for the festival. You really get to see people thrive by applying what they have learned from being actors, directors, writers, and then bringing all this knowledge to whatever project they’re attached to. The more you can experience, the more you get a better understanding when it comes to honing your preferred craft. There is a lot of passion and commitment for those involved in NotaBle Acts, and it only seems natural to multi-task wherever someone needs you.